0

Does getaway day success bode well for A’s?

The A’s are 9-4 in day games and 8-2 in the last game of a series. So are good things in store for Oakland in this afternoon’s series finale against the Royals? They need to rebound after last night’s deflating loss. Tyson Ross takes the hill coming off strong starts in his previous two outings. … It’s a warm afternoon in Kansas City, but there’s a pretty strong breeze blowing, so I’d think the heat shouldn’t be too much of a factor.

–Hideki Matsui is sitting against Royals lefty Jeff Francis, and reading through the lines during Bob Geren’s pregame media session, Matsui could sit Monday as well. Geren said he’d stack his lineup with right-handed hitters against Texas lefty C.J. Wilson. Matsui is hitting .275 against right-handers, .171 vs. lefties. Last night, his two doubles were one of the few offensive bright spots for the A’s. But they both came with the bases empty.

–Kevin Kouzmanoff is starting at third for the second straight day. He’s 9 for 20 w/two homers against Francis. “When you’re trying to get somebody going, there’s nothing better than doing it with a guy he’s had success against in the past,” Geren said.

–Conor Jackson is back in the lineup at left field, with Josh Willingham the DH. I didn’t mention it in this morning’s stories, but Jackson’s left shoulder apparently was bothering him more than he let on after his collision at first base Friday night. Geren said after that game that he was planning to give Jackson a day off Saturday anyway, but it sounds as if Jackson needed a day to recover. “We’re very fortunate it wasn’t anything more serious,” Geren said.

–You’ll see lots of A’s players swinging pink bats today to raise awareness for breast cancer on Mother’s Day. And pitcher Brandon McCarthy will be wearing pink cleats. McCarthy is the only Athletic who wears Under Armour cleats, the official cleat of Major League Baseball. According to A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich, only players contracted with Under Armour can wear the pink cleats. Too bad McCarthy isn’t pitching today. It’s an interesting look …

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson LF, Willingham DH, Suzuki C, DeJesus RF, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Ross RHP.

Royals – Getz 2B, Cabrera DH, Gordon LF, Francoeur RF, Hosmer 1B, Betemit 3B, Maier CF, Pena C, Escobar SS; Francis LHP.

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Dallas Braden to get 2nd, 3rd opinions on shoulder; Andrew Bailey has another good day

The lowdown from Kauffman Stadium, as Tommy Lasorda is in the house (or on the field) as the A’s take batting practice. …

–Andrew Bailey threw a 30-pitch batting practice session and, for the first time, threw all of his pitches – fastball, curve, cutter, changeup. Manager Bob Geren said he looked good, as did Kevin Kouzmanoff, one of the hitters facing him. And Bailey said he felt good. His road back to the 25-man roster continues gradually. Next up will be a simulated game, which is different from throwing live BP – no protective screen in front of the mound, a count will be kept. It’s more of game situation. Bailey estimates he’ll throw “1 or 2” more times before heading off on a rehab assignment, but consider everything written in pencil.

–Dallas Braden will get a second and third opinion on his shoulder in the next few days. He’ll be examined by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., on Monday. Then he’ll see Dr. David Altchek, the Mets team doctor, in New York on Tuesday.

Tonight’s lineups on a perfect night for baseball in Kansas City:

A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, LaRoche 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.

Royals – Getz 2B, Cabrera CF, Gordon LF, Butler DH, Francoeur RF, Hosmer 1B, Aviles 3B, Treanor C, Escobar SS; Hochevar RHP.

2

Conor Jackson gets another start at first base for A’s; Kevin Kouzmanoff back at third

It’s early May, and the Royals are 17-14 and in second place in the AL Central. That has people talking in Kansas City after this franchise has struggled for so long. But the real buzz as the A’s begin a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium is the major league debut of Royals top prospect Eric Hosmer. The left-handed hitting first baseman wasn’t supposed to reach the bigs until later this season. But he mashed at Triple-A and the Royals believe he’s ready. Hosmer, 21, was the third overall pick in the 2008 draft. He’s the crown jewel from Kansas City’s loaded farm system, and it should be entertaining to watch him take his hacks against lefty Gio Gonzalez.

The A’s could use some exciting new blood in their batting order. For now, Oakland fans will have to settle for tonight’s intriguing lineup. Conor Jackson draws his second start in three games at first base in place of Daric Barton. Ryan Sweeney’s five-hit game Thursday buys him a start in left field, with Josh Willingham sitting. Andy LaRoche spells Cliff Pennington at shortstop and Kevin Kouzmanoff returns to third base after riding the bench for five games. A’s manager Bob Geren says no one is out of the lineup for health reasons. “Everybody’s healthy. That’s why I’m continuing to mix guys in to keep everybody healthy and everybody fresh,” Geren said.

I don’t read too much into Willingham sitting, but it’s interesting to see Jackson getting another start at first base, particularly against a right-hander. Geren is looking for ways to keep Jackson’s bat in the lineup, and Barton is hitting .204 with six RBIs in 31 games. If Jackson keeps hitting, might he get more time at first? Right now, I like him in the No. 3 spot with David DeJesus batting second.

–A team spokesman said there was no more news on Dallas Braden, so we can assume he has yet to get that second opinion on his injured shoulder.

–It’s a big night for DeJesus, who returns to Kansas City for the first time after spending the previous seven-plus seasons with the Royals. He held a pregame press conference but then had no idea how to find his way from the interview room to the visitor’s dugout. He never spent much time on the visitor’s side of this stadium until tonight …

The lineups:
A’s – Crisp CF, DeJesus RF, Jackson 1B, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Sweeney LF, LaRoche SS, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B; Gonzalez LHP.

Royals – Aviles 2B, Cabrera CF, Gordon LF, Butler DH, Francoeur RF, Hosmer 1B, Betemit 3B, Treanor C, Escobar SS; O’Sullivan RHP.

0

LaRoche might get more time at third base

Are you still wondering what to make of this A’s team? So am I … After showing signs of life on the road, the offense was silenced last night. The A’s try to even this four-game series against Detroit tonight, with Brandon McCarthy attempting to make it three straight strong starts to begin his 2011 season.

Andy LaRoche draws his second straight start at third base, and A’s manager Bob Geren said he might give LaRoche an extended look there. Kevin Kouzmanoff is hitting just .171 in 13 games and he’s made four errors. He just looks off defensively right now. “I told him guys have ups and downs fielding and have ups and downs hitting,” Geren said. “Right now he’s having a rough time with both of them. But I have confidence he’ll break out offensively and defensively, because he’s done it in the past.”

That’s not to say there won’t be any defensive adventures with LaRoche. I asked him about that ugly sacrifice fly in the eighth inning last night, when left fielder Josh Willingham caught a fly ball in left-center, fired a throw to third and no one was there covering, which allowed a second run to score on the play. LaRoche was positioned to be the cutoff man for a throw home (there were runners on second and third to start the play).

LaRoche said he wandered away from third to be cutoff man because the runner at second was not tagging up. At any rate, there was confusion on the play, and LaRoche said a game plan is in place to better handle the situation next time. With runners on second and third and less than two outs, if there’s a fly ball to left-center, one possibility is to have first baseman Daric Barton be the cutoff man, allowing the third baseman to stay at third. As we’ve seen, the A’s are likely to be in a lot of close games this season, and they can’t afford to be giving away extra runs. …

–Michael Wuertz (strained left hamstring) is scheduled to throw one inning for Single-A Stockton on Saturday. If that goes well, he might do so again Sunday. Geren said they would wait to see how Wuertz comes out of Saturday’s outing before proceeding with his next step. The right-hander has been on the DL since April 6 …

The lineups:

A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Ellis 2B, Suzuki C, LaRoche 3B, Pennington SS; McCarthy RHP.

Tigers – Rhymes 2B, Raburn LF, Boesch RF, Cabrera 1B, Martinez DH, Kelly CF, Inge 3B, Avila C, Santiago SS; Porcello RHP.

1

Random items on an odd day in A’s land

It just ain’t right. … Today’s A’s-White Sox game starts at 4:05 p.m. local time, and the odd start just throws the daily routine off completely. The A’s clubhouse opened at 11 a.m., players stretched at noon and then took batting practice before they make the long drive to Camelback Ranch in Glendale. Everything is pushed back about three hours from what it’s been for the past four-plus weeks — not really a day game, not really a night game. It’s baseball no-man’s land today. But enough with the drama …

–Today’s lineup against the White Sox looks familiar:

Crisp CF; Barton 1B; DeJesus RF; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Suzuki C; Ellis 2B; Kouzmanoff 3B; Pennington SS; Cramer LHP (with Outman to follow) …

–Manager Bob Geren says he’ll tinker with his lineup, but this is the third time we’ve seen this look (and second day in a row) when Geren has penciled in an ‘A’ lineup. So he likes something about it. The top five hitters are no surprise. As for the 6-8 hitters, Geren says they could be interchangeable. I had Kouzmanoff pegged as the possible No. 6 guy, but Geren said there’s justification to hit him eighth. “You need power down in the lineup too. I’m not saying he’s going to hit there. I fully expect him to rebound in his second year in the league. If the spring is any indication, his swing looks great. He could definitely climb up in the order depending on how he does.” Kouzmanoff is hitting .387 with one homer and seven RBIs in 12 games.

–Lefties Bobby Cramer and Josh Outman both take the hill tonight, and it’s an important outing for both. Cramer is squarely in the 5th starter discussion and needs to keep up with Brandon McCarthy and Tyson Ross. Outman, who has struggled, really needs to turn things around quickly.

–Keep an eye on the backup infielder situation. Geren said Adam Rosales is recovering as expected from his right foot injury, but from talking to Rosales yesterday, I know he was hoping to be further along by now. Tough to say whether he’ll return by May 1 as the A’s hope. Andy LaRoche is hitting .324, but he’s very unproven as a shortstop. And Steve Tolleson and Eric Sogard have each missed some time and haven’t distinguished themselves yet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the A’s sign someone with shortstop experience to back up Cliff Pennington.

That’s all for now …

3

Kevin Kouzmanoff’s wardrobe malfunction and other A’s tidbits

Pretty entertaining scene today as the A’s took the field to stretch. They’re on the road against Cleveland, so the entire team was wearing their gray pants – except third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. He came out wearing his bright white home pants, sticking out like a sore thumb and hearing it from his teammates. Sometimes Kouzmanoff wanders around the clubhouse as if he’s in his own little world, so I’m not too surprised. … Speaking of Kouzmanoff, a standard he set during the 2010 regular season is carrying on this spring — the guy spends more time signing autographs and chatting with fans than anyone else on the team.

On to the news …

–Rich Harden experienced a setback with his injured lat muscle while throwing long toss Sunday, so he’s going to get checked by a doctor, according to manager Bob Geren. It seems safe to say Harden will stay in Phoenix and work in extended spring training when the major league club heads north for the regular season.

–After Sunday’s regular season-style lineup, the A’s will start just four regulars against the Indians today. They occupy the first four spots in the order:

Crisp CF; Kouzmanoff 3B; Willingham LF; Matsui DH; Carter 1B; Powell C; Carson RF; Weeks 2B; Sogard SS; Braden LHP.

I wouldn’t read too much into Kouzmanoff batting second. But I was intrigued by him hitting eighth Sunday. Geren said he’ll continue experimenting with the bottom half of the order during exhibitions to see what he likes.

–Dallas Braden has not been concerned about his three lackluster starts so far, but the lefty needs to start putting together some quality outings.

–Gio Gonzalez will pitch in a simulated game Wednesday, when the A’s are off. That keeps him on his regular five-day turn. Judging by the pitching schedules, Gonzalez is the logical candidate to get the ball for the April 1 opener against Seattle. As it stands, his turn would come March 31, but the A’s may take the opportunity to give him the extra day’s rest. But Geren – who’s in midseason form with his “Don’t Tip My Hand” philosophy – pointed out he has some cushion to adjust the rotation leading up to the opener. The A’s don’t play March 31, and they’ve got another day off April 4. But Gonzalez’s sterling form so far makes him a strong contender for the opener.

–The daily bullpen updates: Michael Wuertz is still scheduled to make his exhibition debut Tuesday; Craig Breslow is throwing off the mound today, and Geren said Saturday is a possibility for the lefty’s first game. “That’s a solid 12 days before Opening Day,” Geren said. “I’ll take it.” … Closer Andrew Bailey will make his second appearance today.

–Reliever Danny Farquhar was reassigned to minor league camp this morning.

–A little radio news: The A’s confirmed that Chris Townsend will be back hosting the call-in show before and after every regular season game on KTRB. His first broadcast is March 28, the first game of the Bay Bridge Series against the Giants.

2

A’s relievers still being handled carefully; the batting order takes shape

Hideki Matsui makes his A’s debut today, but don’t read too much into the rest of the lineup against the Angels with so many regulars getting the day off. David DeJesus is still trying to shake off a stomach bug, but it’s possible he’ll play tomorrow against the Reds. Here’s your starting nine:

Ellis 2B
Suzuki C
Matsui DH
Jackson 1B
Kouzmanoff 3B
Carson CF
Carter LF
Taylor RF
Tolleson SS

Braden P

**Joel Pineiro is on the hill for the Angels.

–Michael Wuertz is scheduled to throw off the mound Thursday for the first time since his shoulder soreness started. Fellow reliever Craig Breslow has had some tenderness in his throwing arm, according to manager Bob Geren, so there’s no indication yet when he’ll appear in a game. Closer Andrew Bailey is probably 5-7 days away from his first game. Those are three key guys in the bullpen, but I’d attribute their inactivity to the A’s precaution as opposed to anything seriously bothering any of these guys. The plan has been to limit their throwing early to preserve them for the regular season.

–A little insight into the batting order: Geren said he wants a right-handed hitter to bat behind Hideki Matsui (the likely No. 5 hitter). He mentioned Kurt Suzuki, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mark Ellis as possibilities for the sixth spot. So bit by bit, we can piece together how the order will look. If I had to project right now, I’d say: Crisp, Barton, DeJesus, Willingham, Matsui, Kouzmanoff/Suzuki, Ellis, Pennington.

How would that lineup strike you, A’s fans?

5

A’s trade Dana Eveland to Toronto for player to be named or cash

The A’s just announced they’ve traded left-hander Dana Eveland to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Eveland was designated for assignment Monday along with infielder Gregorio Petit, and the A’s had 10 days from that point to trade, release or send each player to the minors if they cleared waivers. Petit’s status is still pending.

Eveland was part of the six-player package the A’s received from Arizona in the Dan Haren trade prior to the 2008 season. He opened each of the last two years in Oakland’s rotation. After going 9-9 with a 4.34 ERA in 29 starts in 2008, he struggled to find any kind of consistency in 2009, spending most of the season w/Triple-A Sacramento.

Just two of the six players received in that Arizona trade are still w/the A’s — Brett Anderson and Chris Carter. Shortly after that deal, a scout told me that if just two of the six players turned into impact major leaguers, the deal would be a success for the A’s. They have to be happy w/Anderson’s development at this point, and they’re obviously high on Carter’s potential. They’ve taken others received from that trade — Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith and Aaron Cunningham — and flipped them in deals that eventually netted a starting third baseman (Kevin Kouzmanoff) and highly rated outfield prospect (Michael Taylor).

How do you critique that Dan Haren trade to this point. Is the jury still out?

14

Thoughts on the 2010 Oakland A’s batting order

I was rummaging through my notes from last week’s A’s media event, and wanted to share some thoughts from Bob Geren about his possible batting order. Geren was asked how he would handle the 1-2 spots, with Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis being the prime candidates at the top of the lineup. His take:

“You can do that a couple different ways. You can go Raj-Coco or Coco-Raj. It might depend on who I bat third and fourth. If you have Suzuki batting third, a right-handed hitter, maybe you go Raj first and Coco second. And then Cust could bat fourth, a lefty. I kind of like to (alternate lefties and righties) if it makes sense, so it’s more difficult for the opposition to match up in the bullpen.”

I know … You were hoping that by now, the A’s might have obtained a better fit for the No. 3 hole than Suzuki, right? Perhaps that’s why we’re hearing the Johnny Damon reports. Anyway, Rajai-Coco (or vice versa) is a natural combo in the 1-2 spots. But I could also see a scenario where Suzuki or Ryan Sweeney could bat second and Davis or Crisp could drop down to the ninth spot. Nothing wrong with lighting a fuse at the bottom of the order.

Here’s my stab at a full lineup if the A’s took their current roster into Opening Night. This is assuming that Eric Chavez is coming off the bench, as the A’s plan, and Chris Carter and Michael Taylor are starting the season at Triple-A:

1. Davis LF
2. Crisp CF
3. Suzuki C
4. Cust DH
5. Kouzmanoff 3B
6. Sweeney RF
7. Ellis 2B
8. Barton 1B
9. Pennington SS

**I didn’t purposely try to go right-left all the way down, just worked out that way …

Let’s hear some thoughts on the A’s options …

0

Kevin Kouzmanoff, A’s agree on one-year, $3.1 million deal; Rajai Davis gets $1.35 million (WITH UPDATED INFO)

LATEST INFO: Reliever Michael Wuertz is the lone arb-eligible Athletic to remain unsigned. Wuertz, who made $1.1 million last season, is asking for $2.9 million and the A’s are offering $1.9 million. This info comes courtesy of Ed Price at AOL Fanhouse.

A’s assistant GM David Forst told me he’s optimistic the A’s can work out a contract with Wuertz and avoid a formal hearing, which would come sometime in February.

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The A’s just sent out a release announcing that newly acquired third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff also agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. The AP is reporting he gets $3.1 million.

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Just got it confirmed that the A’s and outfielder Rajai Davis avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $1.35 million contract w/incentives. It’s a well-earned bump from the $410,000 that Davis made last season, and it avoids the possibility of the A’s going to an arbitration hearing with him in February. Now the team will focus on signing its lone remaining arb-eligible player: reliever Michael Wuertz. Check back here later for updates.

To recap the arbitration process: A player is eligible for arbitration after three years of major league service time (and in some scenarios, two-plus years, which was Davis’ case). If a team doesn’t reach a contract agreement with an arb-eligible player, a hearing is held before an independent panel, where the team submits a proposed salary figure, and the player’s agent submits a proposed salary. The panel hears each side’s case and decides on one salary or the other — there’s no middle-ground compromise. These hearings can get nasty because a team is forced to criticize its own player to justify why the lower salary should be given.

The A’s have had great success in recent years finding some middle ground and reaching agreements w/players to avoid hearings. Teams and players were due to exchange salary figures at 9 a.m. this morning if they hadn’t reached an agreement, and I assume that’s turning out to be the case w/Wuertz. Teams can continue negotiating a deal with a player anytime leading up to their scheduled hearing, and I’d expect the A’s to hammer something out w/Wuertz before it comes to a hearing …